Staff at the City of Riverbank learned over the weekend of the passing of former Mayor and City Council member Sandra Benitez.
In announcing the news, a spokesman said, “It is with heavy hearts that we inform the community that the City of Riverbank lost former longtime Council member and Mayor Sandra Benitez, known to most of us as ‘Sandy’ on Dec. 11.”
She served first as a council member, from 1992 to 1996, then was elected as mayor, serving two two-year terms, until 2000, being succeeded by Mayor Bill O’Brien. Mayoral terms have since been extended to four years.
Benitez took a break, but was reelected to the council in 2002 and served until 2010. All in all, she provided 17 years of service to city government.
During her tenure, she helped steward the planning and development of both the Crossroads housing developments and the shopping center there, extending the city limits to the west. Ultimately, the city population tripled during the time she served.
She also helped organize and oversee the reclamation and improvement of Jacob Myers Park, and the downtown redevelopment project, which included the creation of the award winning Plaza del Rio Park.
Benitez was active in many other community projects and on the board of several organizations. She was a member and past president of the Riverbank Federated Women’s Club and a founding member of Riverbank Women of Action.
“Sandy was a mentor and a friend to so many; we recognize her many contributions to the community and ask that the community keep her family in their thoughts and prayers,” the city announcement continued.
“City Hall has approved to have the US flags at all City facilities to be lowered to half-staff as a symbol of our respect and gratitude.”
Benitez was preceded in death by her husband, Art, on Dec. 18, 2018. He was also very active in community affairs.